Theology 101

Your Purpose Is Revealed in God’s Design and Desire for Creation

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Deep within each one of us is a hunger to live a life of significance and purpose. The key to satisfying our hunger for meaning is understanding one basic principle: we are stewards of everything we have.

Many Christians would agree with this concept of stewardship, but few are able to articulate how they are to steward. This is because they don’t know God’s original design and desire for creation. Without knowing that blueprint, it’s easy to get lost as stewards.

Theologian Ken Boa writes:

God has entrusted us with certain resources, gifts and abilities. These things rightfully belong to him. Our responsibility is to live by that trust by managing these things well, according to his design and desire.

At IFWE we believe the “why” of our work, both paid and unpaid, is to bring about biblical flourishing (shalom) in the world. That is God’s design and desire for his creation. In order to effectively bring shalom in our families, churches, communities, and vocations, we must first understand the difference between God’s design and his desire.

Shalom in the Original Blueprint

God made everything based on his perfect design and, by the power of his own will, that design will be realized:

For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased (Rev. 4:11, NLT).

…He makes everything work out according to his plan (Eph. 1:11, NLT).

The Bible teaches us that from the very beginning, shalom was part of God’s design in creation. Scott Kauffmann writes,

Shalom bookends our existence: it characterizes both the Garden and the eternal City, and so provides the vision for our existence in between.

Shalom existed at the beginning of creation, and it’s still where God wants us to be focused today.

Shalom in Our Original Job Description

Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. There was perfect shalom in the garden—everything worked just as God designed it to. Shalom was built in to the design of creation. Making more shalom also becomes part of the job description of Adam and Eve—God’s desire for creation.

When God articulates this job description, the reason Adam and Eve were created, he tells them to “subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:28). In this context, the word subdue, according to scholars Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem, literally means to go out and make the earth “useful for human beings’ benefit and enjoyment,” a place for human beings to flourish. In other words, their purpose was to go and work at making more shalom.

If God’s desire for Adam and Eve was to create more shalom in a perfect world, how much more does he desire us to cultivate and “reweave” shalom in our broken world?

Equipped to Reweave Shalom

This idea of shalom in the Bible stands apart from all worldly versions of flourishing in that it provides not only a vision but also the means by which a person can achieve flourishing:

  • God reveals through his word his design for our flourishing, then equips us to pursue it through his Holy Spirit, who empowers, restores, and reforms us by grace.
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Shalom” (Isa. 9:6, OJB), shows us what real shalom is.

This gospel calls us back to fulfill our lost and forfeited calling in Gen 1:28, thereby giving us a taste of shalom in this world and guaranteeing our experience of shalom in its fullness in the world to come.

Confidence in What We Hope For

Martin Weber writes that this longing for shalom is written on our hearts:

Biblical Shalom is the utopia for which Western civilization has yearned since the days of Plato. It is the failed promise of ancient empires and contemporary politicians, the frustrated dream of formerly love-struck newlyweds.

Yet, there is One who has promised us shalom, and he will be faithful to deliver on that promise. He made the ultimate sacrifice that we might experience God’s shalom both in part in the present world and in its fullness in the world to come. This is what we all long for.

As the Apostle Paul writes, “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is the good work of his grace that equips and enables the work of our hands to reweave biblical shalom—bringing flourishing to the communities we serve. And that work is motivated by nothing more than our love for him:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Ps. 90:17).

Editor’s Note: Be one of the first to hear about Hugh Whelchel’s upcoming booklet on this topic of “reweaving shalom” by signing up for the IFWE blog.

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